DVD Review: House of the Rising Sun

As a rule, I tend to try and avoid watching straight-to-DVD releases, but this one got me interested just enough to make an exception. Purely because of the existence of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (oh, and Andre the Giant, obvz) I’m never going to write off a star of WWE who tries their hand at acting ever again. So even though I’ve also seen John Cena in 12 Rounds, Stone Cold Steve Austin in The Expendables, Triple-H in Blade: Trinity, and Hulk Hogan in everything ever, I’m willing to give this film’s star, Dave Bautista, a chance. His co-stars kind of got me interested as well. Not so much Craig Fairbrass and Dominic Purcell, but certainly Amy Smart (because I’m genuinely sad about what seems to have happened to her career), and demi-god Danny Trejo.

Bautista plays Ray, an ex-cop who was sent to prison for being legitimately corrupt. Now ostensibly a good guy, but working for a dodgy criminal organisation, Ray has to investigate the armed robbery of the casino/brothel he works at in order to clear his name. “I was afraid of getting typecast as just your stereotypical big muscle-head who never had anything intelligent to say,” says Bautista on the special features. “But Ray is very similar to me in personality, so basically it’s just like portraying myself on screen.” The thing is though, his character IS a big muscle-head who never has anything intelligent to say. Sure, he seems like a nice guy who has made some bad choices, but it’s hardly going to take him too far away from the stereotype he’s so keen to avoid. That being said, Bautista handles his line-reading better than some of the aforementioned wrestlers-cum-actors, and while he may not be the most charismatic he’s probably got a future in this kind of fare.

Bautista aside, the film’s a bonkers crime thriller. Everybody is double, triple, and quadruple-crossing everybody else, and it’s hard to keep up with who did what, who Ray’s trying to convince of his innocence, who knows what, and whether anybody really cares. Danny Trejo is expectedly good value in the few scenes in which he appears, and Amy Smart is fine as Bautista’s ex (those two? a couple? really?). If this was theatrically released I think you’d have every reason to be disappointed, but it’s not and as such it’s passingly entertaining. It may be low-budget but the gunshots, practical stunts and quick cuts do a decent enough job of standing in for expensive action. There’s totally a market for this kind of stuff, and although I don’t know the world of straight-to-DVD movies as well as some, I can only imagine this is an above-par effort. House of the Rising Sun is released today on DVD.

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